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 Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers

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PostSubject: Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers   Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:40 pm

JOHN LOWE'S BLOG
Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers

By JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • October 10, 2008

For 40 years now, I have lived on the wrong side of your history.

When the Tigers won the World Series on this date in 1968, I was a fourth-grade Cardinals fan in suburban St. Louis.

One of my classmates was Kevin Schoendienst, the son of Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst.

Kevin wasn’t with us in the classroom that afternoon as we watched Game 7 on the black-and-white TV. He was down at Busch Stadium, where Jim Northrup’s seventh-inning drive to center went over Curt Flood’s head and broke the scoreless tie between Bob Gibson and Mickey Lolich and put the Tigers in front to stay.

Maybe knowing Kevin made the whole thing even more personal for me.

Game 7 of the ’68 Series, while the high point in the life of almost any Tigers fan, remained the low point in my time as a Cardinals fan.

Then, slowly, that started to change.

I was still a huge Cardinals fan when they missed the 1974 N.L. East title by 1 ˝ games. I found that a captivating season that leaves a team just short of the post-season hurts more than losing in the post-season. (Tigers fans, I now know, had learned the same thing in 1967.)

Then in 1986, I was honored to become the Tigers beat writer for the Free Press. I started to meet members of that ’68 Tigers team, and was I ever impressed.

There is Dick Tracewski, who had become a Tigers coach. What a baseball man, and what a gentleman.

There is Jim Price, who tells me so many stories about the men on that ’68 team. I have come to realize what a wonderful group they were.

There is Willie Horton, a pillar on a ballfield and in a city.

And there is Al Kaline. He is everything to the Tigers that Stan Musial is to the Cardinals - the man of almost inconceivable elegance and kindness who spent his entire Hall of Fame career with one team in one town, and who remains on the scene as an ambassador from some sort of higher world.

That ’68 World Series was the only one that Kaline played in. Almost every other member of that ’68 Cardinals team played in the ’67 World Series (which St. Louis won). Many of them played in the ’64 World Series (which St. Louis won).

Now I understand what it means that Kaline could win that only World Series in which he played.

Beyond getting to know members of that ’68 team, I’ve come to see how much that team meant to Detroit. Nothing brings a community together in an uplifting way like a successful baseball team, and after the riots of 1967, seldom had a community needed an uplift like Detroit in 1968.

The overhauling of my viewpoint on the Tigers-Cardinals World Series became complete the night the next Tigers-Cardinals World Series was arranged.

That was Oct. 19, 2006, at Shea Stadium in New York.
The Cardinals had just beaten the Mets in the N.L. championship series for the right to meet the Tigers in the World Series. In the St. Louis locker room afterward, I talked with my friend Mike Shannon. He is the Cardinals’ long-time broadcaster, and he was the third baseman on those ’68 Cardinals who lost to the Tigers.

He said that night that it was good for the Tigers that they won that World Series. Otherwise, he said, that team never would have been appreciated for how superb it was.

It’s one of the classiest things I’ve ever heard anyone say. Shannon repeated it this year, when the Cardinals were the visiting team at Comerica Park for the 40th reunion of those ’68 Tigers.

“The one good thing that came out of that Series – and I’m still upset we lost, don’t get me wrong – is that if we had beaten them, that team never would have been recognized for how good it was,” Shannon said. “They were really a good team.”

I wonder if that ’68 reunion would have been held this year if the Tigers had lost that World Series. No matter: As I saw the ’68 Tigers get cheered at Comerica this June, I could think something that I never could have back in fourth grade:

Good for them.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers   Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:38 am

I wonder if the 1984 Tigers will be honored next year at Comerica

It will be 25 years next year


Time Flies
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PostSubject: Re: Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers   Sun Oct 19, 2008 2:57 pm

Maybe the 2009 Tigers will someday be thought of in that same way.....
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PostSubject: Re: Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers   Sun Oct 19, 2008 3:01 pm

tigersaint wrote:
Maybe the 2009 Tigers will someday be thought of in that same way.....


In the year 2049?



Let's hope that is so.

24 years and counting since last Tigers WS title
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PostSubject: Re: Long trail from St. Louis: Appreciating the ’68 Tigers   Sun Oct 19, 2008 3:01 pm

Be nice to win one


GO TIGERS GO
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